Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative

The Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative is the leading think tank in the world studying diversity and inclusion in entertainment through original research and sponsored projects. Beyond research, the MDSC Initiative develops targeted, research-based solutions to tackle inequality. The MDSC Initiative works in three major areas:

RESEARCH: Uses data-driven and theory-based research to offer insight and evidence to industries on where diversity is needed and how to achieve it

ADVOCACY: Exists to foster inclusion and give a voice to disenfranchised or marginalized groups

ACTION: Offers simple actions for complex solutions to facilitate social change at the student, industry, and societal level

New Study From Dr. Stacy L. Smith & The MDSC Initiative: Inequality in 900 Popular Films


Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the Media, Diversity & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC Annenberg are proud to announce their newest study, entitled Inequality in 900 Popular Films.

The study, released today, reveals how little top-grossing movies have changed when it comes to the on screen prevalence and portrayal of females, underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, the LGBT community, and individuals with disabilities. The study is the largest and most comprehensive intersectional analysis of characters in motion picture content to date.

Stacy Smith: The data behind Hollywood's sexism

In October 2016, Dr. Stacy L. Smith, the Founder and Director of the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative delivered a powerful TED Talk on the prevalence and portrayal of female characters in film. Most importantly, she shared her data-driven solutions to the problem. Watch now!

Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED


Beyond research, Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the MDSC Initiative are advancing practical, theory-driven solutions to the persistent lag in equality in media. These solutions offer real-world media professionals, performers, and even consumers the chance to get involved in addressing the problem and being part of sustainable change. Learn more about Dr. Smith's recommendations for individuals and organizations who want to end media inequality.

The Music Coalition

The vision of The Music Coalition is to create diversity and inclusion in the music industry.  The mission of the coalition is to engage and work with leaders and executives in the music space to cultivate an inclusive industry culture and business practices that advance equality among artists, musicians, and employees.  Ultimately, the coalition will leave a lasting global footprint on consumers by ensuring that music is openly accessible to all.  

Stacy L. Smith, Ph.D.

Dr. Stacy L. Smith is the Founder and Director of the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California where she is also an Associate Professor. Dr. Smith's work examines gender, race, LGBT status, disability, and age on screen and gender and race/ethnicity behind the camera in cinematic content as well as barriers and opportunities facing women and people of color in the entertainment industry. She also conducts economic analyses related to diversity and the financial performance of films. Dr. Smith is a world leader, with speaking engagements ranging from the TED Women stage to the United Nations. Her research sets the global standard for data on employment diversity in entertainment, and she is a trusted source to the entertainment industry. Dr. Smith’s work is cited widely by both corporate and educational audiences. Dr. Smith has written more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, and reports on content patterns and effects of the media. In 2015, LA Weekly named Dr. Smith the #1 Most Influential Person in Los Angeles. You can read more about Dr. Smith’s work and accomplishments in her full bio.



Research and advocacy at this level involves multiple stakeholders. The MDSC Initiative is grateful to our existing sponsors and partners, including The David & Lura Lovell Foundation, Mari and Manuel Alba, Bonnie Arnold, Ann Erickson and Richard Pellett, Beth Friedman, Suzanne Lerner, Valley Fund for the Advancement of Women and Girls at the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona and Ann Lovell, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and Barbara Bridges. Support is also provided by The Tides Foundation on the recommendation of Ms. Julie Parker Benello. Interested in supporting the MDSC Initiative? Please contact us for more information or click here to donate.


For more information and updates on the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative, visit us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also reach out to us at mdscinitiative[at]